Need help with naming diminished 7th chords

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Djard
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Need help with naming diminished 7th chords

Post by Djard » Fri Mar 13, 2020 4:27 pm

I must have dozed off in music class when figured bass was taught, so my theoretical knowledge in music comes up short. My strength is flamenco guitar technique. So I am hoping somebody more knowledgeable at this forum will lend me a hand and look at page 4 of the attached document, and tell me if I am on the right track, concerning the naming of diminished 7th chords.
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Re: Need help with naming diminished 7th chords

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Peter Thomsen
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Re: Need help with naming diminished 7th chords

Post by Peter Thomsen » Fri Mar 13, 2020 6:06 pm

On Page 4 you have
G♯°7/D resolving to A/C♯
and
C♯dim7/E resolving to Dm.
To me, that seems to be “on the right track” concerning chord naming.

However, you wrote:
“The leading note (the root) always resolves upward. All the other members of the dim7 chord resolve down.”

The leading note (the chord symbol’s root) indeed goes upward, but the third above it can go up or down.
I see nothing wrong in letting the third go up.
Example:
C♯°7 resolving to Dm
C♯ going up to D, and E going up to F,
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motet
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Re: Need help with naming diminished 7th chords

Post by motet » Fri Mar 13, 2020 6:58 pm

Djard wrote:
Fri Mar 13, 2020 4:27 pm
I must have dozed off in music class when figured bass was taught.
Just FYI, "figured bass" is just that, a bass line with numbers below it to indicate the harmony, rather than what you have here.

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Re: Need help with naming diminished 7th chords

Post by Djard » Sat Mar 14, 2020 3:19 am

That helps. Thank you.

One of my music teachers once told me that a proper understanding of figured bass was necessary for naming such chords. Up to that time, I had always named a dim 7 after the lowest note in the chord.

Now if a diminished chord always resolves up one semitone, can we infer that any diminished 7th chord that does not include a note one half step below the next chord is probably incorrect?

I have researched this topic and notice at least two schools of thought, regarding the nomenclature. There does not seem to be a consensus in the matter. That major publishing houses often publish guitar chord diagrams of dim 7ths without the root note adds to my confusion.

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Peter Thomsen
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Re: Need help with naming diminished 7th chords

Post by Peter Thomsen » Sat Mar 14, 2020 6:45 am

Djard wrote:
Sat Mar 14, 2020 3:19 am
… Now if a diminished chord always resolves up one semitone, can we infer that any diminished 7th chord, that does not include a note one half step below the next chord, is probably incorrect? …
I am not sure I understand.

You wrote:
“a note one half step below the next chord”
This I do not understand.
A note can be one half-step below another note.
But a chord is not one note; a chord is several notes.
How can a note be one half-step below several notes ???

Please explain.

You wrote:
“any diminished 7th chord … is probably incorrect”
I do not understand what you mean by your word “incorrect” ???

Please explain.
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Re: Need help with naming diminished 7th chords

Post by Djard » Sat Mar 14, 2020 10:12 am

I apologize for not being clearer. If a diminished 7th always resolves as a leading tone, such as C#dim7 to Dm (C# to D = semitone) then--in the naming process--can we not work backwards, such as identify the resolving chord then count back one semitone (in the scale) to identify the dim7?

For example, if the resolving chord is A, look for G# in the preceding dim7 chord (one semitone back); if there is a G#, especially if it is the root note, then call it G#dim7. If not the root note but still included then view it as an inversion; like G#dim7/B (first inversion), G#dim7/D (2nd inversion), etc. This approach seems to work consistently.

But what if the root note of the resolving chord is not a half step above any note in the preceding dim7 chord? Would a failure of a dim7 chord to resolve by moving up one half-step (leading note to tonic octave) suggest error? Just wondering.

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Re: Need help with naming diminished 7th chords

Post by Peter Thomsen » Sat Mar 14, 2020 12:45 pm

I am still confused.

A chord is several tones.
sometimes you are talking about a single tone, and sometimes you are talking about a chord.

When you say
“leading tone”,
you are talking about a single tone (= the chord symbol’s root), right?
You are not talking about a chord (= several tones), right?

What do you mean when you say
“resolve”?
Do you simply mean “go to the next chord”? So that your words “the resolving chord” simply mean “the following chord”?

Or are you using the word “resolve” in a more restricted meaning?
So that not all chord progressions “resolve”?

Djard wrote:
Sat Mar 14, 2020 10:12 am
… But what if the root note of the resolving chord is not a half step above any note in the preceding dim7 chord? Would a failure of a dim7 chord to resolve by moving up one half-step (leading note to tonic octave) suggest error? …
You will have to ask the composer.
If it sounds right to the composer (= if it is what the composer wants), then it is not an error.
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David Ward
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Re: Need help with naming diminished 7th chords

Post by David Ward » Sat Mar 14, 2020 4:26 pm

I find the idea of there being a ‘correct’ resolution for a diminished 7th chord quite strange.

High romantic and late romantic composers used diminished 7th chords to go from almost any key to almost any other, often via a dominant 7th or a dominant minor 9th, with or without a further diminished 7th (or even a sequence of them), to the extent that it became a cliché subsequently much exploited by film composers. I would suppose that the naming of a particular diminished 7th chord by chord symbol would vary according to whence it was moving from and where to, how clearly defined and stable was the key &c.

EDIT: to which I should maybe add that if the diminished 7th is in effect a dominant minor 9th without the root, then I would suppose that it's chord symbol name would be of the note that subsequently rises by semitone to the tonic. I do not normally either write or play from chord symbols, so I might be wrong, but I should immediately understand its meaning if so labelled.
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Re: Need help with naming diminished 7th chords

Post by Djard » Mon Mar 16, 2020 7:31 pm

I think of chord resolution as a progression of notes achieving completion or (in semitic or right-hemispheric thinking) terminating a sense of motion...coming to a stop...becoming static, although, for example, a perfect cadence like G to C (V-I) may not always be the composers objective.

So we might say G resolves to C, and G7, being less stable, therefore resolving with even greater finality with the inclusion of the dominant 7th (F) that, in the transition, like a gymnast, chromatically "lands" most steadily on E, in the key of C, doubling the resolution (G -> C and F -> E simultaneously).

The sub-dominant F note in G7 directs the progression to "resolve" in C as F is in the middle of the seven scale degrees in diatonic C. In the same manner, Bdim7 wants to resolve most fully to C. Bdim7 also can give the feeling of completion when resolving in Cm, but, to my ear, less fully.

So, if a diminished 7th chord does not contain a note that is also the leading note in the chord to which it resolves, such as Edim7 followed by C, the Edim7 may "correctly" be spelled as C7b9, without the root. No?

I admit my understanding of chord spelling is wanting, which is why I seek help from more knowledgeable minds here. I'm not going to ask when Ddim7/E, G#dim7/E and Bdim7/E are possibly E7addF, or even FmMaj7b5add6/E.

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Peter Thomsen
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Re: Need help with naming diminished 7th chords

Post by Peter Thomsen » Mon Mar 16, 2020 10:20 pm

Djard,

I am trying to understand your words.

1) If I understand you correctly, you are saying that any chord with a ‘7’ is “less stable”.
On the other hand, a triad - major or minor - is “stable” (major being a little more stable than minor).
- right?

And when you say “resolve”, you mean going from a “less stable” chord to a “stable” chord, right?

2) I am not sure about your words “leading tone”.
When you say “leading tone”, then what are you thinking of?
- Is it a single tone?
- Is it a chord (= several tones)?
Please explain.
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motet
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Re: Need help with naming diminished 7th chords

Post by motet » Mon Mar 16, 2020 10:51 pm

"Leading tone" might be American jargon. It means the third of a dominant chord resolving to the root of the tonic.

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Re: Need help with naming diminished 7th chords

Post by Djard » Tue Mar 17, 2020 2:59 am

I think Peter's confusion is justified. As a result, I will no longer use leading tone and leading note interchangeably as some music teachers in the past led me to adopt. It seems logical to regard a 'note' as referring to a specific pitch, while a tone refers to, say, texture or frequency: they two are not the same.

I failed to make clear that degrees in a scale, while single notes, also relate to diatonic chords.

For instance, a "leading note" in a diatonic scale is the 7th note. If you harmonically stack generic thirds on each note in the scale--tonic, supertonic, mediant, sub-dominant, etc.-- chords form that are intrinsic to the key. The stacked thirds (triads) then naturally form C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, and Bdim. So the leading note in the key of C major is B that harmonically forms Bdim.

Yes, I view any 7th chord unstable because, like all matter (law of entropy), it aurally portrays motion, seeking resolution that is found most fully in a chord that is static...self-sufficient...one that wants to go nowhere because it is in itself the destination, the key.

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